Ice men cometh…
Paul ‘where’s my scarf’ Castles prepares to face the icy blast of the new album from Auðn, released via Season of Mist on November 10, 2017
The exploits of the Icelandic football team at the 2016 European Championships are in danger of being surpassed by an outstanding young crop of underground bands from the same land of forests and fjords. To be fair, Sòlstafir have grown at such an exponential rate that perhaps to tuck them in the envelope marked ‘underground’ is perhaps no longer applicable, But there are others, such as Svartidauði and the magnificent duo that make up Árstíðir Lífsins… and then there’s Auðn.
Formed seven years ago, Auðn were quick to gain admirers when appearing at Iceland’s best known metal showcase, the Eistnaflug Festival. Success in the Icelandic heat of the ‘Battle of the bands’ style contest secured them a prestigious slot at Wacken last year, which in turn generated bookings this year for Inferno and Roadburn.
Auðn hail from the village of Hveragerði in the south of the volcanic island and some elements of living in such a provocative place clearly add texture and definition to their music which marry beauty with more combustible black metal fire. Farvegir Fyrndar (Ancient Riverbeds) is their second album and once more sees the frostbitten five-piece infuse their rich palette of colours with searing melodies, majestically carved grooves and occasional dark incisions.
‘Veröld Hulin’ gets Farvegir Fyrndar underway and exemplifies everything that makes Auðn so appealing. Tenderness and terror are somehow blended into the same mix which weaves in so many directions you almost feel compelled to check on Google maps to find where you are. Anger levels are undiminished on ‘Lífvana Jörð’ which bursts into life before settling into a more cohesive rhythm, albeit one in which a threatening underbelly is never far from the surface.
Aðalsteinn Magnússon and Andri Björn Birgisson deliver a tantalising guitar mix over which the strained cries of Hjalti Sveinsson rip through the taught air. The longest piece is the commanding composition ‘Haldreipi Hugans,’ a frostbitten number full of menace within which Auðn wind things down a little, showing restraint while still baring their teeth. Drummer Sigurður Kjartan Pálsson is allowed to build and then hold a steady rhythm throughout, the rumbling bass of Hjálmar Gylfason helping hold things intact.
This is an album with no lows, ‘Prísund’ keeping the adrenaline levels at perfect pitch before the melodic hue of ‘Ljósaslæður’ finally pierces the blackened clouds with a perfunctory shimmering melody that sees Auðn finally take a step back from the aural abyss on which they so perilously teeter. The grooves are given the time they need to build on ‘Ljósaslæður,’ with a deep rumbling growl almost bringing some biblical-like shape to the scintillating patterns until, unable to hold back the tide any longer, Sveinsson snaps and barks to break the period of contemplation.
The closing passge of ‘Blóðrauð Sól’ approaches the intense wall climbing attacks of Drudkh while ‘Eilífar Nætur’ is still a raging beast of a song there are some silky melodies within the mix if you look hard enough. The final two tracks are epic with closer ‘Í Hálmstráið Held’ taking on a mind of its own as it builds to a crushingly fitting finale. Farvegir Fyrndar is not just a post black metal album, this is something extrAuðnary.
- Veröld Hulin
- Lífvana Jörð
- Haldreipi Hugans
- Blóðrauð Sól
- Eilífar Nætur
- Í Hálmstráið Held